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Front St.Trails Section - Clovis Free PressLinks St.
Vol. 17  No. 21 Final Edition
Clovis Free Press

Monday, January 15, 2001

Staggering Population Growth
Threatens San Joaquin Valley's
quality of life
as open-space and clean drinking water disappear!

By Howard Hobbs Ph.D, Valley Press Media Network


    CLOVIS -- In the year 2000 California open space, farmland and wildlife habitat in the Central Valley and Sierra Nevada were under attack. Richard Schlosberg, President of the Packard Foundation told reporters, "These are treasures of immense value are greatly threatened. If we wait any longer to assure their conservation, they will be lost forever."
    The Packard Foundation, is attempted to bring their financial resources, to the conserviation of these natural resources.
    The Foundation announced in 1998, the most ambitious initiative ever undertaken in American conservation and California’s open space preservation.
    "As successful as it is, our program is only a down payment," said Jeanne Sedgwick, a Packard spokesperson. "If we’re to preserve the quality of life in California, we’ll need a much larger effort, which will require many others to step forward with funding and support."
    "Packard has changed the landscape of conservation in California," said Bruce Babbitt, Clinton administration Secretary of the Interior. "In creating this long-term funding source, they have drawn many key players into planning efforts. Without that security, many of them simply would not be involved. Down the road, it will be much easier for government agencies to put money into landscape-level projects and restoration practices that have been proven thanks to these kinds of philanthropic investments."
    Without major efforts to conserve California’s remaining open lands, state population growth in the coming decade is expected to have devastating impacts. The California Department of Finance projects a population increase of more than 40 million in coming decades.
    In light of this growth, the Sierra Club and others suggest that purchasing these lands outright would cost $12.3 billion in 1999 real estate values. No doubt, losing these lands to development could harm tourism, drive animals to extinction, require costly treatment plants to filter drinking water and "diminish the willingness of business to locate high-paying jobs in California.    "If we don’t act now to protect California’s open lands, we’ll destroy one of the world’s most beautiful, livable and biologically rich regions," Sedgwick added. "We’ll squander a great treasure."
    Sedgwick told reporters, "The best solution combines public and private funding. Ultimately, the State of California needs to create a source of permanent funding, much like those approved by voters in Florida and New Jersey." The Packard report commended Governor Davis’ recent commitment of $75 million for open-space funding as an important first step and the passage by California voters of Propositions 12 and 13 which dedicate significant funds to parks and open space.
    The Packard Foundation’s Conserving California Landscapes Initiative is designed to leverage its contribution by drawing matching funds and key players into the process. In 1998, the Foundation said it hoped to attract $175 million in additional funding, from individuals, corporations, other foundations, government agencies and othersm, a goal that was also exceeded by the midway point.
     In transactions related to the program, Packard contributed $96,181,673 in grants and low-interest loans. Other sources contributed $244,671,519, a figure that includes more than $50 million from individual donors.
    Through the Conserving California Landscapes Initiative, the Packard Foundation does not buy land. Rather, it supports groups that may do so for conservation purposes.
     The initiative emphasizes an array of transaction tools, including the purchase of land, easements for agricultural use and water rights. This allows many of the lands to stay in private hands and in uses such as ranching or farming, while permanently restricting any significant development.
     The Foundation also offers low-interest bridge loans to help groups close real estate deals at the most opportune times.
    The program’s reach includes policy and planning grants help groups develop sensible land-use practices and policies. Public education grants have been used to focus attention on the need for open space protection.
     Capacity building grants help organizations improve their skills with the strategies and tactics of land conservation. Some of the restoration and stewardship grants have been used to help protect salmon and steelhead in the Sierra Nevada. These non-transaction grants total more than $31 million.
    "Because they can move so quickly and decisively, private philanthropists can help groups strike the best price for real estate," said Mary Nichols, California’s Secretary for Resources. "When the government later comes aboard as a partner to help with funding, the public knows their tax dollars are part of the best possible deal on the real estate market. That's a major benefit for the environment and the taxpayers."

    [Editor's Note: The David and Lucile Packard Foundation was created in 1964 by David Packard (1912-1996) and Lucile Salter Packard (1914-1987). The Foundation provides grants to nonprofit organizations focusing on conservation; population; science; children, families, and communities; arts; and organizational effectiveness and philanthropy. Data statistics quoted in this column were provided the writer in the Conserving California Landscapes Initiative Midterm Report and The Trust for Public Land.]

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